History, Mystery, Music and Pop…

Random thoughts on books and events.

Month: September, 2015

Moss doesn’t grow: an alternative universe appears

‘Sir Michael, they’ll be here shortly. Do you want a press spokesman?’

‘No, thank you, Angie, I’ll talk to them before I go’

Sir Michael sat in a big office in Whitehall. This was, perhaps, not the best time to leave, but politics was a tough game, and it eventually caught up with everyone. He’d been the conservative member for Sedding Vale, a fairly safe semi-urban seat, since 1975. Seen as one of the party’s bright young men, his full lips, penetrating voice and blue eyes cut a fine figure on television. Some called him ugly, but there was no doubt he caught the female vote. He progressed quickly, especially as one of Maggie’s favourites. His landmark speech, in which he’d started ‘I speak for those who live on the ninth floor and above of their unit blocks. You are the backbone of Britain….’  He’d finished it, ‘and to those I love, those dreamers, those doers, I want them to say to government, get off my cloud.’

Maggie loved it, of course. Next cabinet reshuffle, he got a junior ministry, arts and recreation, and then soon was sworn in as a cabinet member: first as defence minister, then foreign secretary, and finally Chancellor of the Exchequer. His then wife, Virginia Makepeace, was proud of him, and when they moved into 12 Downing Street, she nearly burst with excitement. Ah, sweet Virginia. Beautiful, sexy, but dumb. They caught her with amphetamines in the soles of her shoes in Customs. The divorce was quick and saw him return to the backbench for a time. When Maggie was rolled (and he never really forgave them for it, though he remained under their thumb), he retained the Exchequer.

He stood for the leadership after Major bit the dust, but lost by two votes. The new leader squared some deal with Blair to make him Speaker, a role sir Michael played with dignity, probity and fairness. It was a good clip. A firm knowledge of parliamentary procedure, a firm hand and he was able to exact revenge on his enemies. One of his proudest moments was the knighthood. Or maybe becoming a Privy Councillor. A long way from the economics and politics degree he’d received from the LSE.

He occasionally thought back to his youth. The band he’d joined with his primary schoolmate, Keith. They were a blues band, a sound he’d liked, though he really wondered why any Englishman would play it. Muddy Waters was a particular favourite, though he hadn’t listened to it in years. He wondered what might have happened if he’d stuck with it. Keith was still plugging away in a band down Surrey way. It was a little sad, Keith with an old telecaster, playing old licks. Stu would have been there, but he’d died, of natural causes, after running one of the UK’s biggest logistics companies. Charlie was the best musician they’d had, and still did sessions.  Perks (what was his first name?) married some young girl and settled down. And that bum, Jones. What an awful individual.

Sir Michael felt he probably should go down one weekend and sit in with harmonica. After all, it was, when you got down to it, only rock and roll. He liked it. But it would never do, seeing the speaker of the house gallivanting around as a 65 year old, playing rock music. He’d feel foolish, and it was a young mans game.

‘Sir Michael, they’re here.’

‘Thanks, Angie. I’ll be right out.”

Of course, it was his need for companionship, and his high stress job. He must have had 19 nervous breakdowns. Or at least would have, if it wasn’t for the odd spot of cocaine and occasional affair. Chemical enhancement kept him going, and the women were a added bonus of the job. The fateful night came at the end of a hellish week. The press had decided, as they did from time to time, to target him because he’d caught out one of their favourites in the House. This New York divorcee: one of the world’s most prominent women had put him in touch with a professional lady who was supposed to be discreet. But one of her clients, who himself was trying to avoid jail, confessed to the police. All Sir Michael was after was a little Coke and sympathy. The client list was spilled to the press. And now the police were on their way.

He stepped out to the press. He was not going to break down. He’d be a fool to cry.

‘There’s a storm coming’ he said. ‘It’s threatening our very lives today. War, a civil war is just a shot away. While I am paying for a minor mistake, I implore the government and the opposition to not focus on this distraction and keep safety paramount. Before they make me run, let me beseech you, I’m not happy.’

‘Michael Phillip Jagger. Please allow me to introduce myself. I am detective sergeant Michael Taylor’, said the policeman, obviously, thinking Sir Michael,  loving the time in the limelight. ‘You are under arrest for …’ The voice trailed off as Michael tried to fathom what had happened. As he got in the car, he dreaded the cell. Maybe he should have stayed in the band. He remembered Keith’s abuse. ‘You don’t leave here till you die, you moron.” Keith stayed, and while he never really got anywhere, he had stayed true to that vision.

The cell was the worst night he’d had. As he said to Angie, ‘you should have heard them, just around midnight.’ The court was brutal. Stripped of everything, titles, prestige, job and freedom, all he wanted was his precious time. Rolling Stones gathered no moss. And apparently, 100 years ago, he’d have gotten away with it. Now, he was 2000 light years from home. And time waits for no one. It was no longer on his side. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need. And sometimes not even that.


Malcolm Turnbull: Prime Minister

Well, Mr Turnbull did it: fairly easily, though not as easily as Ms Bishop, who got 70% of the vote. Mr Turnbull won by 10 votes – not comprehensive, but solid. One wonders if Mr Abbott punched the wall next to Mr Turnbull when the result was read.

The next few days will be consumed with who will be what in the new cabinet. There is very little Mr Turnbull can do to change the party’s fortunes: the public may forgive, but they do not really forget.

We will see, I think, more women brought into the Cabinet. We will see same sex marriage back on the agenda. Refugees will continue to be used as political punching bags, though maybe the rhetoric will sound more human. We will still bomb Syria. And if not Syria, somewhere else. The GST will rise, continuing that ineffective, unjust tax on the poor. Scott Morrison will be rewarded for his thuggery. Joe Hockey will be punished for,well, being Joe Hockey. Christopher Pyne will receive the reward he deserves. Bronwyn Bishop will remain a backbencher, and her bitter, sad, unnoticed end will be even less heralded.

Given Mr Turnbull’s underwhelming performance as Communications Minister, I suspect it will take some time for good government to begin. Again? Or for the first time?

Mr Abbott will not be missed by many: his style did not suit most people’s conception of how a Prime Minister should behave.

Times have become interesting again.

The End of the Abbott?

As I write this, a vote for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Australia is about half an hour away. A quick sketch now as I ponder how it came to this, and perhaps more analysis after the result is known.

Mr Abbott has not settled well into the job: even allowing for political differences, Mr Abbott does not communicate well. He seems to lack sensitivity. He has a reputation of flying by the seat of his pants. He makes short term decisions for short term political gain. He has not espoused policy beyond slogans.

Mr Turnbull has not impressed either. Once the Liberal candidate the left could live with, his destruction of the NBN, his seeming lack of principle, and the opinions of other senior liberals (which are not high) sees him as yesterday’s man – a Rosebery, perhaps.

Mr Abbott came to power on a negative campaign. He lucked into the leadership – the foolish Joe Hockey split the moderate vote (Mr Hockey’s own lack of competence is well documented.).

What should the ALP think? Mr Shorten was the candidate brought in to prove to the membership that the factions still wielded power – he is not well regarded at least in NSW: social media is full of people hoping Mr Abbott loses so the ALP can get a ‘real leader’…

It’s the end of Murdoch. Murdoch, who destroyed his own reputation in the UK (and subsequently everywhere) thanks to the Lewison inquiry, still sees himself as a kingmaker. A tweet last week is seen as  a coded instruction or encouragement for Mr Abbott to call a double dissolution. Mr Abbott did not, and now faces consequences. But Mr Murdoch has finally lost his influence in Australia. The Australian people are stopping listening to him. Declining sales, declining ratings and a generation who prefers a more diverse media has killed him.

About 10 minutes to go: Andrew Hastie (who spoke well, though a closer examination would show a superficial and naive view of the world) has taken the approach that he wants to win Canning – a not unreasonable approach.

Julie Bishop will either end her career or become deputy leader to her third leader. (Nelson, Turnbull, Abbott). She’s not really impressed in the role of Foreign Minister, but she has seemed to settle into it adequately. I suspect she’s learned to take the advice of her department.

Mr Abbott may well win: he is, I suspect, ringing round (or his whips and supporters are) reminding people that the instability in the ALP was what cost them the last election. Differences abound though – neither Ms Gillard nor Mr Rudd were able to hold the confidence of the press. Both were competent (all of our prime ministers were – except McMahon and Abbott – even Whitlam was able to achieve major policy victories – the fact that the Liberal and Country parties didn’t like them didn’t stop them being major. Both Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard had the respect and admiration of foreign leaders in a way Mr Abbott has never managed.

The ballot has started. The atmosphere in the room must be thick with tension. There are those who are betraying a man who has been personally good to them, but who, either for selfish or altruistic reasons (or both) have made a very hard decision. There are those who are sticking with Mr Abbott, and hoping the gamble pays off. There are those who are looking to see what advantage they can wrest… What they all have in common is that they want it to end quickly.

Mr Turnbull’s speech from earlier is being repeated. I don’t believe him. A lot will. Mr ABbott again fails to impress.

It’s a no win situation: if Mr Abbott wins, he’s destabilised, and he’s lost two senior ministers (if not more). If he loses, well, so does Hockey, Pyne, Brandis, Abetz, Brandis…

Sue Boyce is now talking – she’s against the spill. It’s really just filler. She disagrees with a lot of Mr Abbott, but ‘we will rue (knocking off a sitting Prime Minister)…’ Quite possibly that is true.

My guess is that the counting has begun – it will be counted a couple of times….

The telecaster

just a few random thoughts on that marvellous guitar, the telecaster. 

Essentially  developed by Leo Fender in around 1949, the telecaster is one of those inventions that get it exactly right. A solid block of wood, carved in the rough shape of an acoustic guitar with a single cutaway, 21 or 22 frets, two knobs: one for volume, one for tone. Pickups: initially one, when it was the Esquire. Two  for a Tele. Most teles have single coil pickups.  The stratocaster brings in the third one, and the Nashville has that. Unlike most guitars, the strings go through the body, giving a very different tone. The body gives the strings a particular resonance.    
That sound: the snap. The twang. Despite its seeming limitations, the telecaster is the most versatile guitar there is. Comfortable in country, blues, rock, jazz, metal, fusion, folk, et centra et cetera. A greater tonal range than the les Paul or the stratocaster, the telecaster fits and enhances. 
For years I played a Yamaha. I chose it over a telecaster! I’m still not sure why, but there was a sense in which I thought I wasn’t ready. Now, I love the Yamaha. But three years ago, I finally bought a 2012 fender Nashville   deluxe telecaster.  It has an extra stratocaster pickup. I got it modified so it switches to the vital bridge neck sound, and I’ve put a wilkinson tempered three saddle bridge on it. The bridge improved tone and sustain. 
So, why a telecaster? Why not a strat? Or a Paul? Or a 335? Basically, teles change your sound. They change your style. The cliches are true – you can’t hide on a telecaster. Yes, I use all types of pedals. But, as Sam Bush States in the John Hiatt song: ‘I like country music, I like mandolins, but what I need right now is a telecaster through a vibrolux turned to 10’. 
The best history is Duchoissoir’s, which is full of details. Tony Bacon does some good work. There’s also the telecaster manual.  Great discussion can be found at This site
My deluxe. Albeit with the original six saddle bridge. 

Danny Gatton signature telecaster. The most expensive signature model made to that point. 

The telecaster thin line. Perhaps the only great thing of the CBS years. This is a 1972 reissue: note the humbuckers. The 1969 version had single coils. The chambers are a brilliant innovation. Used by players like don rich, it can still snap and twang, but it has a warmer range. 
Keith Richards micawber. 

Love the silver sparkle of don rich

Jimmy Bryant was the first major player of the telecaster. His jazz inflected country leads were fast, flashy, skilled and lay the template for later players. 

Steve the colonel Cropper. Unusually,he preferred the neck pickup. 
To be continued.